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Male and Female Response to Crisis in Ann Radcliffe's Gothic Romances
Tadej Braček, 2016, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: The thesis systematically enumerates and analyses the responses to external and internal (psychological) crises experienced by the characters in Ann Ward Radcliffe’s gothic romances. In this respect, it represents an original contribution to the scholarship in the field of English literature studies. The novels it deals with are The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, A Sicilian Romance, The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian. The introduction explains the theory of gothic romance and explores the schism between the north and south of Europe, where the former is considered as a stable and moderate part of the continent, and the latter as full of passion and instability. The north and south also represent the gap between Protestant and Roman-Catholic Europe. Catholic clergy, dwelling in the south, are mostly pictured as morally debauched and as having a hidden agenda, even if they first appear to help others. Such an example is Padre Abate from A Sicilian Romance. The dissertation asserts that responses are not so much defined by gender itself, but by the benevolence or malignancy of the characters. Benevolent characters are more sensitive and react more turbulently in the physical sense in instances of crisis, e.g. by fainting or becoming ill. Such is the case for all female protagonists: Mary, Julia, Adeline, Emily and Ellena. Heroes and heroines are affected by nature and find solace in it, while malevolent ones are not affected by nature at all and seek comfort in earthly pleasures of human origin. Such examples are the Marquises de Mazzini and de Montalt, and Signor Montoni. Negative characters’ reactions to crisis are vehement and aimed to change not themselves, but other people or circumstances. Their malignancy, mixed with covertness, as they want to keep up appearances, is the agency that drives their responses. Their reactions are not rational, and since Radcliffe’s romances are novels of Enlightenment where reason reigns supreme, it is not difficult to foretell that such characters are doomed to perish. They indeed do so, either by their own hand, as in the cases of Schedoni and the Marquis de Montalt, or at the hands of others, such as Baron Malcolm and the Marquis de Mazzini. Nearly all of them repent at the end of their lives and wish to amend their wrongdoings. The exceptions are Maria de Mazzini and Schedoni. The former accuses her own husband, who caught her cheating on him, for her unfortunate situation, whereas the latter, once a confessor, dies without remorse or absolution. Positive characters seeks comfort in God before they die, and their turning to Him is often associated with the realization that He is the creator of magnificent nature. However, there is one substantial difference between male and female responses to crises. Males tend to be more active in seeking solutions, while women, even if they desire to be saved, primarily depend on men to make it happen, or, if they show some resistance, they submit to male power to avoid consequences. The one who acts on her own is the nun Olivia, who arranges Ellena’s escape from the convent of San Stefano. In its conclusion, the thesis stresses the importance of Anne Radcliffe’s works for world literature and suggests that they should be included in the current curricula and broader literary studies, as well as translated into Slovenian.
Keywords: Ann Ward Radcliffe, gothic fiction, romances, males, females, crisis, response
Published in DKUM: 29.08.2016; Views: 1791; Downloads: 162
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